September 17th, 2009
Written by: Nam Yun Sung (Daily E-Sports)
Pictures: Lee Sora (Daily E-Sports)
Introduction: Magazine-S, Naver.com’s (a major Korean web portal) sports e-zine recently published an interview with Boxer and Bisu, with the help of two of reporters from Daily E-Sports.
The selling line for this article was that Boxer was officially declaring Bisu to be his heir (it’s in the original title), but that is something of an exaggeration so I'm going to talk about it like it's official. People can decide for themselves what Boxer means. There is a long introductory segment that provides background information on the two players that shouldn’t be unfamiliar to the readers at teamliquid, so I’ll go straight to the meat and bones.
Part 1: Getting to know each other.
When did you first meet Bisu?
Boxer: Bisu was on a different team then, and he was a new player, so I had little to no information on him. Just before I started military service, around July 2007, I met him for the first time in a competition. At the time you had to make it through the Dual Tournament to make it into the Ongamenet Starleague. I faced Bisu in the final round and lost. Bisu went on to the Starleague, I joined the air force.
Bisu: I remember that a lot of fans hated me after I beat Boxer. No one knew who I was, and I had just beaten someone who was huge figure in the game.
After you joined the Air Force team, you had some really great games. It might not be such a good memory for Bisu, but Boxer actually beat him in a Proleague Ace Match.
Boxer: Not long after I joined the air force, we had a match in the Proleague. It was just after Bisu had defeated Savior to win the MSL, so we were expecting him to appear as the team’s ace. Luckily for me, Chrh beat Bisu in game four, and I beat him again when he played in the ace match as well. He lost his shuttle and reaver, which swung the game my way, and I finished it with a well timed push.
Bisu: It’s a painful memory that I don’t want to think about. People made fun of me on the internet saying “Toss~ and spike!” Literally, they meant that Chrh set me up like a volleyball, and Boxer applied the final spike.
Boxer: Back then we had a really thin roster in the air force. We were just one player over the minimum requirement for Proleague. Fortunately, I wasn’t in the main line-up that day, so I had time to practice solely for the Ace Match.
Bisu joined SKT1 in early 2008, while Boxer rejoined his old team in December. The two ended up as teammates…
Boxer: After I was discharged, the players held a welcome back party for me. That was the first time I talked to Bisu in a casual setting. I realized he was very young. Since he was born in 1989, that put almost ten years between us. And I knew at first sight, he had the kind looks that female fans would drool over. I had to give him credit for that, right off the bat.
Bisu: You’re too kind. When I first met Boxer, I was overwhelmed by his ‘force’ (note: in this context, Koreans use this to mean aura, presense, etc). I didn’t notice this while I was on another team, but he really had this unexplainable something that influenced everyone around him. He was good with words, and had leadership.
Boxer: I think Bisu’s the one who’s doing the flattering here. As I started to practice in earnest, I noticed that Bisu was extremely focused in his match preparation. People might talk about practicing like you're playing an official match, but Bisu was for real. When we played our internal evaluation matches, Bisu didn't go easy on me even once. To exaggerate a little, I won maybe one game in a hundred.
Bisu: Boxer really worked hard as well, trying to rediscover his touch after leaving the military. From 10 AM until deep into the night, all he would do was practice, with the exception of some exercise. The younger players all voluntarily put in more practice time after Boxer rejoined the team. After Boxer’s return, we went on an upwards path, and it took us to a Proleague championship. He deserves a lot of credit.
2: Boxer the experimenter, and Bisu the “Practice-bug” (note: Korean expression for someone who practices a lot)
As a soldier, you had a responsibility to work hard. What was your motivation to keep practicing so much after leaving the military? Your promise to yourself to be a progamer in your thirties?
Boxer: When I still had that military spirit in me, I kept to the practice schedule alongside the younger players. But after I started enjoying the outside world again, my practice time went down a little (laughs). Personally, I’d like to reach my dream of being a progamer in my thirties, and for the sake of my fans who want to see me play, I want to make it through our internal competition for a spot in the Proleague.
Bisu: There’s another thing that changed after Boxer joined the team. We came up with some new strategies. Terrans like to go mech vs Zerg nowadays, don’t they? When Boxer and ILoveoov think together, they come up with a lot of interesting stuff. It’s really surprising.
Boxer: I’ve always enjoyed creating strategies. In my prime, I developed and performed a lot of dropship tactics and bunker first strategies versus Zerg. Even now, I devote a lot of time to thinking up new strategies. I agree with coach Iloveoov when he says that e-sports needs peculiar strategies to survive, so we contemplate that together. When I’m really focused during my experiments, younger players joke that I’ve entered 'The Hyperbolic Time Chamber' (note: An intensive training room in the Dragonball anime series where time elapses more slowly). When people enter that room in Dragonball, they all leave stronger.
Bisu is the ace of SKT1, and the flagship Protoss player in E-Sports. What does Boxer think Bisu's strengths are?
Boxer: I haven’t seen anyone who’s such a ‘practice-bug’ like Bisu. During the 08~09 season of the Proleague, a lot of players complained about the lack of rest. But Bisu barely rests even now that the season is over. The team gave us some time off in September since it was the off-season. I went to the practice house once to keep my hands loose. When I got there, I saw Bisu was there as well. When I asked my teammates, they said they’d seen him every day. So given a week of vacation, he spent all of it practicing.
Bisu: I really feel why you’d need time off occasionally. But unless it’s a team vacation, there’s always one thing that’s eating away at me. While I’m resting, other players are going to be practicing hard, thinking of new strategies, and I’m going to be left behind.
Boxer: I was like that at one time. When I won the Starleague, I felt like I had reached the top of the mountain, and I really wanted to relax. But this sense of pressure rushed in, that others are practicing while I’m goofing off. So there have been a lot of times I’ve abandoned vacations to practice. From Bisu’s perspective, it’s understandable he’d feel that way. But I’d like to recommend the occasional break. It really makes your life miserable to live that way for 4~5 years.
Both players are well-known for their use of unique strategies. They’ve used innovative strategies against Zerg in particular, setting the trend for those matchups. Is there any particular know-how to this?
Boxer: It takes a lot of effort to develop a new strategy. When you’re trying to get an advantage early on, you have to understand the mindset of the other race to create a polished and well-made strategy. I try to think of units or buildings that wouldn’t be used typically and how they could be utilized, and then I try to move that into practice.
Bisu: In my case, I try to get a lot of help rather than try to do it all by myself. When I was preparing for my MSL final with Savior, the coaching staff at MBCGame and the Zerg and Protoss players all gave me ideas. The general advice was ‘Use corsairs to kill overlords and limit Zerg’s knowledge, then you can exploit his weaknesses with other units,’ and I worked on optimizing timing based on that.
Boxer: Personally, I’m not so hot on the replay system in Starcraft. For a strategic player like me, it’s the worst feature ever. After you create a strategy and use it in a televised game, players watch the replay and dissect it immediately. Honestly, it’s hard to find a counter just by watching VODs. But if you give progamers a replay, they figure it out in no time at all. It really kills the motivation of whoever thought of the strategy.
Bisu: I agree with Boxer. I’d rather Starcraft 2 not have a replay function. Though I don’t use strange strategies that often, replays help people figure out the general flow of my playstyle.
Boxer: The time at which the skill level of progamers started to become more even coincides with the introduction of replays. I think it’s a responsibility of progamers to research a variety of strategies and playstyles, but nowadays everyone plays the same way. I think it ended up just making Starcraft less fun.
3: About fame
After being discharged from the military in December 2008, Boxer mentioned at a press conference that “Bisu will become the next-generation icon of E-sports.” Having not had the chance to get to know Bisu at that point, what did Boxer see in Bisu that lead to these comments?
Boxer: I think he has everything needed to become an E-sports star. First off, he loves the game he plays. It’s because he likes the game that he practices so hard and thinks about strategy. He’s a hard worker, too, and the results show that. The fact that he’s highly ranked in every league makes it self-evident that he has some great qualities. Not only that, but he’s a good-looking guy. When we go to fan meetings these days, Bisu always draws the biggest crowd. He also placed first in all-star voting. You can say he’s the star the fans want.
Bisu: Compared to Boxer, I’m still lacking in many departments. After living with him for six months, I know that there are so many things I can learn from him. Like I said, from 10 AM till late into the night, he’s just there practicing.
Boxer: I think one of Bisu’s strengths is that even though he’s introverted, he gets along with his teammates. It’s easy to grow arrogant when you’re as successful as Bisu, but he has no pretense of superiority at all. If his game plan isn’t working well, he’s not afraid to talk to his teammates and look for an answer, which is something I could learn.
When Boxer became the quintessential E-sports icon, he received a lot of media exposure outside of progaming. Will Bisu have to go through this process as well?
Boxer: I have a lot of things I could say on that topic. This happened way before SKT was founded, you could say it’s near the very beginning of e-sports. After I won two Starleagues, all of the sudden I had a slew of other responsibilities outside gaming. Not just interviews, but also TV appearances, advertisement deals, and I was even offered a role in a movie. So I did them all! My schedule was so packed I could barely practice for the next tournament. I had a fixed seat on a radio show even during the middle of the season, so you can say I was practically a celebrity.
Bisu: I was part of a progaming team from the start, so it was never that bad for me, though I did get a little taste. After I beat Savior in the 2007 GomTV MSL, I got a storm of interview requests. I’m not very good at public speaking, but I’d have something like three interviews a day and it continued for about a month. It was stressful.
Boxer: If it’s an interview about progaming, then it’s not that bad. What’s really terrifying is being on network television. I think I’ve been on about ten times, and I'm telling you, you start feeling the nerves the second they approach you with an offer. Ye-neung programs (TV shows where celebrities entertain viewers in variety of ways, ranging from some really childish games, to a standard sit-down interview) are the worst. I’m like Bisu in that I’m not really outgoing, but the problem is that you have do SOMETHING for the audience. You can’t understand that kind of pressure without feeling it yourself. It’s like being stranded alone in a desert.
Bisu: I was on a radio show not long ago. But I was with Savior and Flash, so it went pretty well.
Boxer: Radio is comfortable for me, but network television cameras are still stressful for me. Of course there’s cable broadcasters like MBCGame and Ongamenet, but network is something else altogether.
Someone was needed to follow in Boxer's footsteps and help promote E-sports further. Did you pass the baton to Bisu in that regard?
Boxer: I think Bisu will slowly start to feel that kind of pressure. He’s the best right now in terms of skill, and he needs to become the best at activities outside gaming as well. You need resolve to jump into that larger world.
Bisu: Boxer, you seem like you're still okay, so you can’t pass that onto me already. I hope you can be face of e-sports even past your thirties, into your fourties.
Boxer: That’s a bit of a stretch. Anyway, progamers getting media exposure isn’t enough to promote E-sports. We have to try and change the negative perception that video games hold in society. We need to make people realize that E-sports is an environment based on fair competition, and that progame teams are groups of professionals, not a bunch of addicts.
Bisu: That’s something I’ll have to learn from Boxer as we live together. I’ve only thought about playing well, and that leading to popularity and fame, not about the big picture.
Let’s close this interview with final remarks
Bisu: I think I’m a very fortunate player. I managed to meet a great mentor like Boxer after a move to SKT1. I hope more of the younger gamers can learn about Boxer’s ideas for progaming. For that to happen, he needs to stay active, right? I hope you succeed as a thirties progamer, and I’ll be helping you at your side.
Boxer: Bisu’s current skill and future potential make him a fine new icon for E-sports. I want to emphasize the mindset a star player needs to have. Every single word you say, or thing you do can become the stereotype of progamers for the public. So you need to speak and act only after thinking deeply. If you can keep the mindset that you are representing all progamers, then I have no doubt that you’ll be a great representative for us all.
Not the most interesting interview in the world, and it's not hard to tell that the two aren't that close. They are ten years apart, after all. Standard, safe compliments. You can't help but think Boxer would say the same things about Jaedong if they were on the same team.